#1 New Albany
Good looks, smart planning and civic engagement
Median age: 37.9
Distance to downtown: 16 miles
It’s like the opening of an idyllic suburban sitcom. Burnt-orange brick homes with white-trim windows and front stoops—each different, but all an ode to classic Georgian architecture. Even a 10-year-old neighborhood shines like new, just as planned. New Albany is a city that grew with swift, structured movement. A town carefully created on paper and discussed down to the smallest detail: white horse fences, two-lane roads to preserve the feel of country driving, identical trees planted on either side of roads and vintage-style mailboxes near curbs.
But it wasn’t the look of New Albany that first attracted Kevin and Kathryne Reeves when they relocated here from Houston 10 years ago.
“We got the sense that people were still taking applications for new friends,” Kevin says. “It just felt very welcoming.”
Couples would cross rooms to introduce themselves. People would smile like they wanted to meet you, says Kathryne, who was five months pregnant with their son Kevin at the time. “It just made all the difference. I felt like I could break in and meet people.”
As the family has settled in, their initial impressions of the city haven’t changed. They appreciate the level of forethought that went into walking trails, the New Albany Country Club and even traffic patterns. As the city’s grown, Kathryne still never feels like she has to wait at a congested intersection.
“Sometimes it feels like we live in a resort,” Kathryne adds. “It’s really pleasing to the eye.”
The eye-catching architecture brought Mayor Nancy Ferguson to New Albany from Bexley in the early ’90s. The city’s attention to planning has kept her there—and it continues to attract new residents and businesses to the city, she says.
The city, which reports a 95 percent owner-occupied home rate, topped our ranking of area suburbs for, among other factors, its high property values (which remain at the top of the list despite a drop from 2008 to 2012) and an above-average performing school district.
“Residents are innovative, well-educated and looking for something they want to be a part of, something that has lasting value,” says Craig Mohre, executive director of the New Albany Community Foundation.
And the business community has followed, with a commercial base growing faster than housing. The city’s 3,000-acre business park—home to, among others, Tween Brands and Abercrombie & Fitch—provides a strong tax base for city amenities, Ferguson says. That base will continue to grow with the relocation of Bob Evans headquarters in the fall.
Wellness is a huge part of the city’s mission—especially with the Community Center for Health, slated to open in summer 2014, where residents can create health and lifestyle plans with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center doctors.
“We are a very fortunate community,” Ferguson says. “We have inquisitive people who are open to new ideas. We don’t have a lot of people who are stuck in their old ways and don’t like change.”